back to article UK's largest water company investigates datacenters' use as drought hits

Thames Water has started looking at the amount of water used by datacenters in the area it serves around London as parts of the UK are hit by drought. The water company, which serves parts of London and the Thames Valley, said it has begun a "targeted exercise" to understand how much water is being used by datacenters, of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm betting ..

    It's nothing compared to the ongoing leaks, Islington Tsunami or the Dartford Sinkhole.

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: I'm betting ..

      Have a leak in putney. Started the 14th. Meant to be fixed by the 16th. I started filling buckets to water the local trees given Thames are doing sweet FA about it

      And yet those beacons of greed, golf courses, still get watered.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re:Golf Courses

        Just ban Golf or at least propose it. I'm sure that things will start to move on the leak front once the news reaches the golf mad directors.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Re:Golf Courses

          Carl I want you to kill all the golfers on the golf course

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Re:Golf Courses

          Crops unwatered - food shortages.

          Golf courses watered - lots of grazing for golfers.

          Food problem solved, eat golfers.

          1. Outski Silver badge

            Re: Re:Golf Courses

            Not sure I can stomach that much gammon

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm betting ..

        Golf is the 4th most popular participation sport in the UK, ahead of football, rugby, athletics, indeed only swimming, cycling and tennis outrank it.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I'm betting ..

          If Golf is a sport then getting out of bed, getting dressed and going to work are the 1,2,3 most popular participation sports

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm betting ..

            It's better than football, I'd sooner watch paint dry than that.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm betting ..

          It's the 12th. You're reading Google wrong.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm betting ..

            Depends on whether you consider gym & fitness training, walking and running as sports, and whether you're looking at UK or England.In England, if you do accept those other activities, then Golf is 4th, behind swimming, football and 'active play". For the UK as a whole, and looking at 'official' sports rather than just general 'exercise', it's 4th.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              What about fishing? (a waste of water?)

              In the list of totally useless activities that are classed as a sport, this one has to be #1!

              Darts, golf, and the act of reading anything by the current government and believing it.

              But surely, in this age of bullshit snowflakery, tree-hugging, namby-pambyism, does it matter if you win at your sport, it is the participation.

              FML this country needs a fucking backbone!

              And Thames Water needs to get its own shit together, when there are 600 million gallons of leaks a day in its network.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: What about fishing? (a waste of water?)

                "And Thames Water needs to get its own shit together..."

                ... and erm... stop pumping it raw into the Thames!

            2. TRT Silver badge

              Re: I'm betting ..

              My favourite sport is trolling the Daily Mail.

      3. johnfbw

        Re: I'm betting ..

        2 days late? That is nothing, in my old place in SE London it wasn't uncommon to have leaks filling a bucket of water every minute not fixed after weeks. Some of their leaks had trails of lichen over 100m long.

        One one behind my house was dug up every month for 2 years.

        I worked out that in 12 years there wasn't a single week where there wasn't a leak within 200m of house. Thames Water's response was to just stop updating their leak map (and fix dates on the signs) so it didn't show the leaks

    2. EricB123 Bronze badge

      Re: I'm betting ..

      I've never been to the UK and I'm still upvoting this.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Never been to the UK

        Well, don’t bother @Eric.

        As the poem goes...

        “Oh gentle bombs, come rain on Slough.

        It isn’t fit for humans now.”

        I’ll get my coat and head for Dover.

        1. Judge Mental

          Re: Never been to the UK

          Have you worked in Slough?

          1. Anomalous Cowturd
            Unhappy

            Re: Never been to the UK

            > Have you worked in Slough?

            I have.

            Both my colleague and I had our cars broken into overnight, while parked in a "CCTV protected" car park.

            It's a dump.

        2. Kane Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Never been to the UK

          "Oh gentle bombs, come rain on Slough.

          It isn’t fit for humans now."

          You don't solve town planning problems by dropping bombs all over the place.

  2. gillburt

    I understand that Datacenters would need to use water.... but I would have thought a mostly "closed loop" type approach would employed.... if anyone can explain or point to decent papers/articles I'd love to learn more.

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      I expect once you've used it to evaporative cool, it takes more energy to re-cool and extract it again, so they vent it ?

    2. Oglethorpe

      It takes around 500x more energy to boil water than it does to raise its temperature by 1°C. If you had a closed loop, you'd need to dump all that heat into the ground or, more likely, a river, which does crazy things to the ecosystem with even a small temperature rise. Throw some water vapour into the atmosphere and that energy will bleed back over several cubic kilometres as the water condenses. The water isn't boiling in an open loop but evaporation is pulling out the same energy.

      Incidentally, the reverse of this is also how condensing boilers achieve such staggering efficiencies and why you shouldn't have the temperature of your central heating set too high (at the boiler, not the thermostat).

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Condensing tumble driers (a) exist and (b) work fine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The condensing dryer on my washer/dryer takes water from the mains and spits it out to the drain quite regularly during operation (I can hear the inlet valve opening/closing). Definitely not a closed system.

        2. Oglethorpe

          For both the above mentioned condensing dryers and the expensive type that use heat pumps, the aim isn't to dispose of waste heat, it is to transfer water from clothing to the drain. The water cooled type is indeed dumping heat down the drain but it's a lot less than a data centre and only intermittent. The heat pump type is only generating extra heat through inefficiencies in the system.

          1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

            Yup, mine is a heat pump, it has a hot end and a cold end. Air goes over the hot end into the tumbler, and picks up water vapour, then over the cold end, where the water vapour condenses, and the heat liberated gets pumped up to the hot end. Far more efficient than the old school ones that belched our hot steamy air through an open window.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              >Yup, mine is a heat pump, ... Far more efficient than the old school ones that belched our hot steamy air through an open window.

              Personally I like my tumble dryer to actually dry my families clothes in a reasonable length of time (ie. we can largely do the weekly 5 loads of washing, drying and ironing within one day), which a reasonably efficient washing machine paired with a washing line and conventional condensing dryer achieves quite nicely.

              Also there is very little to go wrong in a traditional condensing dryer and when it does its mostly a DIY job, a consideration when I recently replaced a circa 18 year old condensing dryer that was only marginally less efficient than modern machines...

        3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Condensing tumble driers (a) exist and (b) work fine.

          I use an extremely efficient solar drier. Cost me a couple of eye hooks and some cord. Sure, it has some of the same drawbacks to solar PV, but it's a really cheap way to dry stuff.

          1. myhandler

            Mine harnesses wind power *and* solar. I better get it to market pronto.

            1. Coastal cutie

              I'd love to but living by the sea, any items dried outside come in like cardboard, on account of the amount of salt on the breeze

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            >I use an extremely efficient solar drier.

            Did you get planning permission ?

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Did you get planning permission ?

              Nah, I haven't built my own Sol. Yet.

              Bizarrely though, some places (like parts of Germany) ban people from using 'renewables' to dry clothes in their gardens. More common seems to be a perception that it's somehow unhygenic. Which kinda makes me wonder what you'd find in the way of molds, fungi and bacteria if you swabbed the insides of a typical washer/drier.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                A lot of USA areas ban clothes lines because they are for poor people and so lower house prices

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Ah the same country where the police might arrest you for having grass that is too long in your garden.

                  1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

                    You won't get arrested, just fined! Which is appropriate, otherwise people would have 3 foot lawns (a garden is where you grow vegetables!).

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Are they blacklisted?

          3. Grooke
            Joke

            Enough outdoor space to hang out your clothes?

            Someone is doing quite well for themselves!

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Someone is doing quite well for themselves!

              Well, everyone should have the right to be clothed. Or not. Plus 'fast fashion' increases the amount of clothing available in 2nd hand shops. Assuming they're still allowed to be called 2nd hand, because not everyone may be fortunate enough to have one of those.

              T'other energy saving advantage from using 'renewables' is if ya hang clothes to dry while they're damp, less electricity or ATP needed to iron stuff than if you use a drier.

          4. Roland6 Silver badge

            Can vouch for the extreme efficiency only downside, is British weather - funny how leaving a line of washing out and going out, seems to be the best way to ensure it rains.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Along with a hosepipe ban.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                That's a good thing - the neighbour can't accidentally spray my washing.

        4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Condensing tumble driers (a) exist and (b) work fine.

          From personal experience I dispute (b).

          I've only ever found condensing tumble driers to be a terrible compromise between drying and putting a hole in your wall, a compromise that fails to effectively dry clothing even if you leave it running for hours. YMMV.

          1. matjaggard

            Re: Condensing tumble driers (a) exist and (b) work fine.

            Regarding condensing dryers not working. I think they actually work perfectly well but to meet efficiency targets/ratings the companies seem to choose "don't bother drying the clothes" as a valid cycle to get tested. All our cycles take significantly less time than advertised when I start them but I have to run 2 or 3 times if I want the clothes dry enough not to smell when they're put away.

            1. Chz

              Re: Condensing tumble driers (a) exist and (b) work fine.

              The heat pumps are particularly bad for that. They sip power, but take ages. And they take an age to get up to the required warmth, so there's no such thing as tossing one item in for 30 minutes to dry it out - it will barely be lukewarm by then.

          2. KBeee Silver badge

            Re: Condensing tumble driers (a) exist and (b) work fine.

            Long drying times were a loophole in the testing regulations to get an A+ energy efficiency rating (it might have been tightened up since I last checked).

            Got the A+ rating, but on the Economy Setting could take 24 hours to dry a sock.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I would have thought this as well (Then again the nearest I have been to a proper data centre was over 10 years ago, currently just have a small closest with some racks), surely they would have to treat water through to ensure parts in the cooling system don't react or corode?

      1. hoola Silver badge

        The water is used to spray on pipes/radiator matrix so that evaporation cools the closed loop chilled water.

        Most ends up just disappearing as, well vapour........

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
          Coat

          Yup because I have only ever read about it, I am thinking it isn't well used.

        2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          How well would that work out when the unpurified water is contaminated by sewage ?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            When it hits the fan?

        3. JassMan Silver badge

          I can't help but think that using black water for cooling is a total non starter. The environmentalists (non to mention IT workers) will be up in arms when the odours from the warmed up brown stuff start percolating from nearby cooling systems.

          Even grey water can soon get whiffy if bacteria takes a liking to dissolved food and even detergent.

          Or are Thames implying that every datacentre has a full sewage treatment works attached in order to purify the water before using it for cooling.

          1. Falmari Silver badge

            @JassMan Here is an unusual and smelly form of water cooling from my days as a welder.

            https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2021/02/26/on_call/#c_4212809

          2. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

            Black water contains 'natural' bacteria. By using black water for cooling, you raise its temperature into the region where Legionnaires Disease multiplies rapidly, necessitating extensive chemical or UV treatment, licensing, testing, inspection, records, specialist waste disposal.....

          3. hoola Silver badge

            I think the term "Grey Water" is used in the context of rain water runoff rather than waste water.

            Even then it is going to have stuff in it that will cause it to get smelly.

            My water butt has a filter to keep leaves, squirrels (f****ers) and such like out but it still looks like weak beer and smells like a swamp.

            1. Cuddles Silver badge

              "I think the term "Grey Water" is used in the context of rain water runoff rather than waste water."

              No, grey water means all waste water that isn't from a toilet.

            2. Martin an gof Silver badge

              As already said, "grey" water is waste from sinks, baths, washing machines etc. but not from the toilet; that's "black", and because the two are usually combined, everything in the public sewers is counted as black.

              Rainwater is an entirely different beast. As someone else has pointed out, one way to purify water is to evaporate it and condense it - this might not take everything out but it's an excellent first step, and of course this is exactly what has happened to rain:

              My water butt has a filter to keep leaves, squirrels (f****ers) and such like out but it still looks like weak beer and smells like a swamp.

              We collect rainwater in an underground tank (capacity about 7,500l) with no filtering other than a leaf filter. Apparently it's really good for washing clothes, but that was a step too far for my wife, so we only use it for flushing the loos and watering the garden, and I can say that on the rare occasions when I have to swap over to mains water, you really can't tell the difference just by looking in the loo pan. The rainwater is perfectly clear and doesn't smell at all.

              Collecting rainwater for drinking purposes is fairly common, and if I remember correctly Robert & Brenda Vale's "new autonomous house" did this with the only filtering being Copper rainwater goods (Copper's quite good at killing bacteria) and a series of old orange juice containers filled with sand.

              M.

          4. TRT Silver badge

            One method of purifying water involves evaporating and condensing it again. This, of course, takes energy... heat energy. A lot of heat energy. And makes pure water into the bargain. But you would need a MASSIVE plant to do this on the scale data centres need.

    4. NightFox

      I think a better approach is an open, shared loop as I've seen used in data centres in Europe, e.g;

      Cold water comes down from the mountains, is used by the DC for cooling. The now warmed water is then piped to district heating plants, and then out to households (with the cleaning process happening somewhere in that process).

      Of course, we don't have district heating (hot water piped to homes) in the UK, but this 'bigger picture' approach must be the way ahead, after all hot water is not only H2O, but also a source of energy.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Scavenged heat.

        I don't know whether this is the case for all datacentre cooling, but when I worked on a couple of supercomputers (ironically at the UK Met. Office), the water that came out of the direct water cooled frames was only at about 30oC. They investigated whether it was useful to try and scavenge the heat, but the power required to run heat pumps to concentrate the heat was not much less than the value of the heat.

        Things may be a bit better now with more efficient heat pumps and higher energy costs, but at the time it was just not worth it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Battersea Power Station used to provide district heating to Pimlico, just across the river

        (now on the tube as Battersea Power Station Station)

        1. TimMaher Silver badge
          Flame

          Pimlico

          But then they introduced a passport and turned the power station into one of the most hideous housing developments, for the rich, ever seen either side of the river.

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Hot water from a power station will definitely be a lot hotter than cam out of the supercomputers I was working with.

    5. Roj Blake

      If anyone can explain...

      Yes, closed water loops are very good and in the UK they can work most of the time without any additional water.

      Essentially, the water gets heated in the data hall, goes up to the roof where it gets cooled, before returning to the data hall.

      The problem is that on a hot summer's day the water doesn't get cooled when it gets to the roof. For proper cooling to occur you need to spray the pipes with a fine mist - and that's where the high water usage comes in.

  3. VoiceOfTruth

    Hosepipe bans

    s/liters/litres/g

    -> Thames Water has itself faced criticism for wasting water due to leaks from ageing pipes, with its network losing almost a quarter of the water it supplies, said to be more than 600 million liters per day by some estimates.

    The hosepipe bans are nabbing the lowest hanging fruit. Nosey neighbours who think they are doing something right will inform on people. Meanwhile the bosses of the water authorities get bonuses while not fixing the leaks. It's rather like politicians who bang on about "dodgy Dave the builder not paying tax" while ignoring the City of London and its institutionalised avoidance of tax.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hosepipe bans

      "losing almost a quarter of the water it supplies".

      Though, pedantically, it doesn't lose a quarter of the water it supplies, since the water is not delivered to the customer, and therefore isn't strictly supplied.

      Also, while everyone likes to talk about water being lost, no one ever considers what happens to it.

      While there are the rare occurrences of mains bursts that create holes in roads and flood properties, with the water then going into the surface water drainage system, most leakage seems to be true leaks from the supply pipes. Thus, most lost water is actually returned to the ground, entering the shallow aquifer if there is one, and thence flowing back into the local river and stream system, or simply adding moisture to the ground which can then be drawn up by plants.

      While it is clearly not good that the pipes are leaking, this is the result of a network of supply pipes that are often in excess of 100 years old. It would be unreasonable and impractical to expect a century of under-investment to be made good over a period of a few years.

      The regulator Ofwat sets maximum permissible leak losses; most of the UK's water companies (including I believe TW) meet those targets. I think Southern and South-western may be the exceptions that truly deserve to be criticised. Otherwise, the criticism should be on the regulator that sets the water loss targets, not the water companies that abide by the regulator's requirements

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Hosepipe bans

        The issue isn't that it's lost - it's that the effort that went into making it drinkable is lost.

        1. Mike 137 Silver badge

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          "it's that the effort that went into making it drinkable is lost."

          And there's a secondary concern - contamination of the supply via the breach in the pipe if the leaked water gets trapped around it (e.g. in heavy London clay).

          1. Roger Greenwood

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            Given that the water is under quite a high pressure, contamination is not a concern until you shut the valve off to fix the leak. Several bar usually, hence water spouts and blown roads in extreme cases.

            I agree the real issue is the cost in terms of resources, other chemicals, energy used to treat it etc.

            1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

              Re: Hosepipe bans

              The pressure is kept high, over the local water-table plus a margin, to prevent contamination back into the pipe. There are quite good procedures to repair pipes which have to be shut off for repair. There is financial pressure to avoid these procedures. Losing tons (or tonnes) of water is immaterial to the accountants.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hosepipe bans

                Perhaps a water loss tax can be implemented.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Hosepipe bans

                  Has no one ever told you, you can't tax a loss?

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Hosepipe bans

        And to be fair when the pipes were installed there was no reason to think there would need to be ongoing maintenance. It's only in the last couple of years that anybody has discovered that old pipes leaks

        1. nobody who matters Bronze badge

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          "....It's only in the last couple of years that anybody has discovered that old pipes leaks..."

          I am old enough to recall the droughts of 1975 and 1976 and the hosepipe bans that were implemented at the time (along with dried up reservoirs and cutting off of domestic supplies and standpipes in the streets in some areas). I also clearly recall that the issue of vast amounts of water being lost to leakage being a big issue back then too.

          I also recall the biggest culprit back then was....Thames Water Authority (water suppliers still in nationalised form back then ;))

          "They have had 33 years......"

          And the rest! I make it at least 50 ;)

          To be fair, some water companies have made big strides in both reducing the leakage, renewing pipework and putting in place the new infrastructure to store and move water around their regions. Others; not so much.

          1. Screwed

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            Living in a Thames area, as I did, I am aware of some significant mains replacement schemes. They did so where I lived.

            But they connected that new main to the existing water supply pipe and communication pipe. Months, possible a year or two later, we had a significant leak. Back-calculating suggests it was of the order of 10 to 20 litres a minute. It is feasible that the mains replacement disturbed the other pipework and caused the leak. Shame no-one from Thames thought to check.

            Thames didn't even check for stopcocks - we didn't have one! (Had always relied on the down-a-hole stopcock by the house and never looked for a street stopcock.) Nor a meter - which would have highlighted the issue.

      3. katrinab Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Hosepipe bans

        They have had 33 years. At the current rate of progress, it will take them just under 2000 years to renew all their pipes.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          At which point they're archaeology and therefore not the water company's problem

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hosepipe bans

        "and thence flowing back into the local river and stream system, or simply adding moisture to the ground which can then be drawn up by plants."

        While technically true, not withstanding the "losses" mentioned by others regarding the cost of making "raw" water into drinking water, that leakage is irrigating ground that otherwise would not be getting extra water, so it's probably not relevant, even if it does simply end up as part of the great water cycle the entire planet has.

      5. Judge Mental

        Re: Hosepipe bans

        "..expect a century of under-investment to be! made good over a period of a few years."

        They've had thirty years since privatisation to make a start. The only thing that flows without leaks are profits.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Hosepipe bans

      Agreed. The hosepipe ban is pretty much the only thing they can apply given how many people are on standing charges, not water meters. If more people were on water meters, I suspect the urgency to save water would become a lot clearer.

      I'm on a meter, and I very much prefer this because I pay for what *I* use, not what I, the house next door and across the road do, which is what you would be doing on a standing charge (if you're single, frugal, or sensible in water usage that is).

      Although other arguments say that the water TW loses through leaks isn't really lost, I disagree. TW wants to build a massive reservoir in Oxfordshire, but the question is whether it is really necessary when Thames Water could be reducing the amount of water they have to process and pump into their network, only to... feed it back into the ground or let it run down the road into a storm drain (or worse, into people's homes, ruining those in the process) through leaks and blowouts.

      Although TW also sells the thing as "oh, we'll reduce the amount of flooding in the area by pumping when it floods", the locals are not buying it, and there's a *lot* of cynicism, especially given how the weather patterns are changing.

      600 million litres of water daily is a lot. That's 600,000 cubic metres, or an average of 240 Olympic-size swimming pools, *per day*. Add to this the general lack of investment in sewage plants and proper disposal of stormwater run-off (which inevitably ends up in the sewage system) which then causes overflows. The fact that a mere mention of heavy rain causes water companies to start dumping raw/partly processed sewage into rivers and onto beaches is a damning indictment. And yes, the fact the C-suites of water companies are getting bonuses when water pollution is still not an issue for them is the most galling of it all.

      1. nobody who matters Bronze badge

        Re: Hosepipe bans

        "......given how many people are on standing charges, not water meters. If more people were on water meters......."

        Anglian very sensibly instituted a policy of fitting every property with a meter several years ago, and giving the customer the option of having a metered bill or remaining on an unmetered annual charge. I tried the metered option for year before making the change permanent - my yearly metered charge is about a third of what the anuual unmetered charge would be.

        I know I am always careful with water use and use rainwater harvesting into water butts for garden watering and car washing, but I still can't fathom why anyone would insist on staying on an unmetered charge?

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          Indeed. I lived in Warwickshire for a time where I was required to pay Severn Water an extortionate amount of money based on a standing charge. I hated every year of it. When I then ended up in Hertfordshire (where it was a standing charge again), I demanded that Three Valleys Water (as they were called back then) install a meter (which they took 2 years to arrange). It was somewhat ironic that their letter to confirm a date of installation arrived several weeks after I relocated to more sensible Oxfordshire where water meters are a thing. ;-)

          I think a lot of people are concerned that their actual metered water bill is going to be a *lot* more than the standing charge, but if that's what they feel, that pretty much would indicate to me that they *know* they are likely wasting water and don't really care... unless of course it hits their pocket.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            The problem is that almost all the cost in water supplies are fixed, it costs money to run the pipes even if you use no water.

            So either you have bills with a large fixed service charge and trivial usage rates or you charge for usage based on the expected average and then end up massively overcharging anyone who uses more, such as families with kids.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Hosepipe bans

              I'm sure I hear that the initial charges when they first started putting water meters in were set so that there was a break even point of 2 adults and 2.5 children, so a family of two adults and two or fewer children were likely to save by switching to metered water, but a family with any more than two children would be better off staying with a standing charge.

              But that was back when people in the UK mainly had baths rather than had showers, and generally only bathed once or twice a week rather than having a daily shower. Also the amount of water used by clothes washers went up when people switched from twin-tubs to automatic washing machines, before coming down again when they made washing machines use less energy, using less water as a by-product.

              And we probably use less mains water for cooking and drinking now than we used to because people use more pre-prepared meals and bottled/canned drinks.

              So it's probably not that clear whether it would be cheaper to switch to metered water nowadays without actually doing it.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Hosepipe bans

                >But that was back when people in the UK mainly had baths rather than had showers, and generally only bathed once or twice a week rather than having a daily shower.

                The laugh is with a typical 8 minute shower using about 62 litre a daily shower for 4 people is 1736 litres a week, whereas a twice weekly typical bath of 150 litres is 1200 litres, if those are individual rather than shared baths...

                So another reason why the typical household (without shower) was better off with the meter.

          2. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            "I think a lot of people are concerned that their actual metered water bill is going to be a *lot* more than the standing charge, but if that's what they feel, that pretty much would indicate to me that they *know* they are likely wasting water and don't really care... unless of course it hits their pocket."

            Or that they know that their medical needs consume significantly more water than the average person.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          > but I still can't fathom why anyone would insist on staying on an unmetered charge?

          Because not everyone is you.

        3. FIA Silver badge

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          I know I am always careful with water use and use rainwater harvesting into water butts for garden watering and car washing, but I still can't fathom why anyone would insist on staying on an unmetered charge?

          It's that human instinct to assume you're being taken for a ride.

          I remained rated for years. Then between selling houses I moved back in with my parents for a couple of years, co-incided with them getting a water meter.

          When my mum pointed out that even though I'd moved back in her bills were a third of the rates I finally got it. :)

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            It's also a fear that you are going to get ripped off later.

            Suppose next year they introduce special emergency drought rates that 10x your costs 'due to the emergency'

            They introduced smart electric meters here which potentially allow them to adjust the electricity rates in real time to match the market price. Coincidentally the standard fixed consumer rate is often less than the spot price that they could sell our green hydroelectricity to California. But I'm sure they won't take advantage of this

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            Her subtle way of telling you to get a shower perhaps?

        4. Rogue Jedi

          Re: Hosepipe bans

          I think I was about 10 when the whole "water meter" thing started coming in, at the time I asked my father who worked for Anglian Water if we were going to get one, his reply was no, it would cost us more money to use a water meter, they are great for 2-3 people, but 2 adults and 4 children means our bill would go up if we did.

          If like me, you are a single man, then of course a water meter makes a lot of sense, I pay about £160 a year in total for water, the fixed rate would be about £580 a year, but that is for a single man who is not too extravagant with water use, the fixed rate is about 3.6 times what I'm paying, so a family of 4 would probably be about breaking even on a fixed rate vs meter, a family of 6 would almost certainly be better off on the fixed rate, and you do still get families of 10+

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Hosepipe bans

            Trouble is once the meter has been installed for 24 months, they don't let the property revert. So the number of properties with unmetered water is steadily declining.

    3. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      Re: Hosepipe bans

      A drought in England, what is that? It only rains 3 days a week instead of 5?

      Y'all need to do what we do here in the Southern US, where droughts are a recurring thing.

      We pay the county to provide our drinking water.

      We pay the county to take away our waste water.

      We pay the county to (somewhat) clean the waste water and give it back to us to water our grass!

      It's a wonderful system, except for the whole "paying" part!

  4. Spazturtle Silver badge

    Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

    In order the keep water bills down Ofwat prohibits water companies from fixing leaks if it is cheaper to simply let the water continue to leak, and the calculation is done per leak not per pipe section. So if an old Victorian pipe running under a field has 20 small leaks along it (but which adds up to a lot of water) it is unlikely to get fixed. You can look at leakage stats and see that every time Ofwat adjusts how much leakage is acceptable the amount of leakage in the network changes to match it (with some lag).

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

      OFWAT could set a reduction target of 10% and make C-level bonuses and share dividends illegal until those targets are met. It'd probably require an Act of Parliament to make it legal, so that'll never happen. It'll just keep getting kicked down the road so the incumbents can blame the "other side" when they get into power.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

      Of course, the problem there also is that they then fix the leak with a patch, but don't send a robot through the surrounding sections to see whether there are more leaks that would be best patched/preventatively repaired by fixing the entire pipe section.

      1. Pete B

        Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

        Indeed - in a single 100yd section of road here they have "repaired" no less then 11 leaks in the last year, most of them being re-repairs of previous ones. Either they actually can't repair the things properly at all, or they don't take any notice of the almost corroded through bit of pipe 2" away from the bit that has failed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

        I suspect that leaks are fixed as and when reported (reactive), whereas replacement of the entire pipe section is being carried out on a planned (pro-active) basis, rather than a reactive basis.

        for example: https://www.thameswater.co.uk/about-us/newsroom/latest-news/2021/apr/crystal-palace-mains-replacement

        However, it's so much more fun to say 'privatised utility bad', than to acknowledge that the privatised utility is actually fixing the legacy of under investment it inherited, and doing so in accordance with the requirement of the official regulator.

        And when the water company comes along and says that you need to move your car for a week, since they are going to dig up your road to replace the water pipes, how many of us say 'good', and how many of us grumble and complain at the noise and disruption and inconvenience? (And possibly say, "why are they doing this, the pipes aren't leaking?")

        1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

          To the child that downvoted that:

          Scottish Water is nationalised.

          Scottish water leaks a third of its water compared to the UK average of a fifth.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

          "However, it's so much more fun to say 'privatised utility bad', than to acknowledge that the privatised utility is actually fixing the legacy of under investment it inherited, and doing so in accordance with the requirement of the official regulator."

          Those private companies that bought up the infrastructure knew what they were buying, or didn't do enough due diligence if they didn't. Or maybe those people took their bonus and ran before the shit reached the leaky pipes?

    3. Noram

      Re: Water companies have leaky pipes because Ofwat requires them to

      Just up the road from me is a fairly steep hill, and every few months it has a nice little stream running down it.

      At one point the water company seemed to be doing repairs on the same section almost constantly, god knows how much it cost them to do it as every time it took several days, caused a lot of disruption for the people living on the street.

      It seemed to get better when from memory they replaced the main feed pipe with a new plastic one, but i've noticed a couple of leaks in the last few months, my guess is they finally replaced the main pipe with a modern plastic one, but not the old metal spurs.

      It probably doesn't help that there is a fair bit of heavy traffic using the road (despite it not really being suitable) as it's the only way to reach several streets, and when I peered into one of the holes a while back it seemed the pipework was a lot closer to the surface than I expected.

      Mind you at least it's not gas, we used to be getting the gas board out every couple of weeks at the end of our street where there was a small bridge, they'd turn out take a sniff (or use a sniffer) and say "nah it's fine", until they'd managed to turn up when it wasn't windy and I believe the response was "oh **** get the digger Bill" and ask why no one had reported it sooner...

      IIRC the leak was in a bit of pipe under the bridge, which meant if it was at all windy it was funnelled away, but if it wasn't you could mainly smell it some distance off for some reason (looking back we always smelt it on a patch of grass, so possibly spreading/contained under the road/pavement until it hit the more porous soil and was able to reach the air in greater concentrations).

  5. John Robson Silver badge

    A quarter?

    Bloody hell...

    The raw numbers are usually presented without context - the proportion is frightening though.

    "Thames Water has itself faced criticism for wasting water due to leaks from ageing pipes, with its network losing almost a quarter of the water it supplies, said to be more than 600 million liters per day by some estimates."

    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

      Re: A quarter?

      Just to put things into perspective, 600 million litres is 600,000 tonnes. A day.

      (Or 670,000 Great White Sharks).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: A quarter?

        What's that in Olympic swimming pools?

        1. FIA Silver badge

          Re: A quarter?

          Quoting 'anothercynic' from above:

          600 million litres of water daily is a lot. That's 600,000 cubic metres, or an average of 240 Olympic-size swimming pools, *per day*.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: A quarter?

            But they need those for the 670,000 sharks ?

  6. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Witchhunt

    Everyone has to tighten the valves, except shareholders, no?

    It's time that huge, disproportional payouts, bonuses and dividends are treated as embezzlement.

    1. Mishak Silver badge

      Re: Witchhunt

      "Investors" certainly shouldn't be allowed to rack up huge debts, pay themselves large dividends, and leave behind what is then as unprofitable, debt-laden business.

      1. JassMan Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Witchhunt @Mishak

        Are you writing about water companies or is that a dig at the Glazer family and their dealings with ManU FC.

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: Witchhunt

      Most of the share holders are firms investing your pension funds.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Witchhunt

        So? If it increases my future pension, it's at the expense of extra costs now. And my pension provider, like all of them, will have a huge spread of investments.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Witchhunt

          I expect one of th ereasons why pension providers have been reluctant to flex their muscle and influence boards, is that they have a conflict of interest, namely their bonuses (for both executives and investment managers) will be linked to the 'performance' of the underlying members investments.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Witchhunt

        I need my pension to keep paying me or my surviving spouse for circa 40 years; something they are going to have difficulty with if their investment strategy is to debt load their income generators (ie. shareholdings) to the point they cease to generate income...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Witchhunt

          You know something? That actually sounds quite scary when the number of years is stated like that. Most people will work for about 40-50 years. Then expect a pension to provide for them for nearly as long again. It's no wonder we need to increase the standard pension age. I can understand people wanting to earn and save as much as possible and hope to retire early, but I wonder how many working towards that aim have actually thought about being "unemployed" for 40+ years?

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Witchhunt

            >but I wonder how many working towards that aim have actually thought about being "unemployed" for 40+ years?

            Particularly as I expect many IT people will still be mentally active and reasonably physically active for much of that.

            BTW my figure of 40+ years is based on 25~30 years for me and a further ~10 years for my significant other who is a few years younger than me - who will receive 50% of my pension in that period.

            You can see why final salary schemes were going to have difficulties due to people living longer, before the government aided in their demise.

    3. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Witchhunt

      Scottish Water is nationalised. It leaks a third of its water compared to the UK average of (IIRC) 20%.

      Grow up.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge
    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      You'd have thought that Microsoft of all companies would have plenty of Windows to open to let some heat out

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        They certainly seem to enable plenty of steam venting from the ears.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They pay for it, right?

      Water companies are quick to take on more customers, but instead of investing the extra revenue, they pay themselves bigger bonuses, and THEN moan that people are using the water they paid for!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thirsty operators

      How many cups of tea is that?

  8. wangi

    If only

    ... they could build the datacenters where there is both plentiful water, power and it's already bloody freezing

    1. Craig 2

      Re: If only

      Joe Public won't put up with the latency on cat videos if they have to be served from within the Arctic circle..

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: If only

        MS has been experimenting with a DC that is underwater. The surrounding water is the perfect heat sink for the DC. The Pentland Firth is an ideal place for one as it has some of the strongest tides in the world.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If only

          But there is always going to be the idiot who decides to open a window to help the cooling...

        2. Roland6 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: If only

          Things worked well until the botched Windows update that required an engineer to switch a server off and on again...

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: If only

            Train a dolphin to hit the big red button

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: If only

      They do. Look it up.

  9. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    Only yesterday I was reading this-

    https://capx.co/knee-jerk-nationalisers-have-no-idea-how-the-water-industry-actually-works/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      capx.co Is that the Centre for Policy Studies, based out of Tufton Street, by any chance? Interesting indeed.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        You can't have nationalised water companies, it would be like the USSR with only one single kind of water and no consumer choice.

        With a dynamic free market of water you have a thriving Silicon Valley of choice in new innovative forms of water. Containing added ingredients you would never have thought of under the old system

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Hmm

          Quote

          "You can't have nationalised water companies, it would be like the USSR with only one single kind of water and no consumer choice."

          You like around here where its southern "throw the shit in the sea/river and hope no one notices" water

          I cant goto another supplier... I cant goto another disposal company... and if I dont pay , they'll send threatening letters ....

          Anyone know a resonably harmless offence that would get me locked up in jail from say october to april so I can avoid the winter heating bill....

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            Not really, no. With the Barristers going on an open-ended strike, you'd be lucky to get convicted with anything anytime soon. The courts are already backed up. You'd probably have to do something to get remanded in custody, but then you might not get out as soon as you'd like. Remand would be taken into account on any custodial sentence, but it could be a long time before you get to trial in the first place.

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            > I cant goto another disposal company..

            Surely you can just flush it into the street and then define the street as the sea?

          3. Falmari Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            @Boris the Cockroach only the one water company. Where I live we have two. One to supply the water and one to take it away (sewerage). Sewerage is Thames Water, I just hope they are not leaking 25% of that as they are with water. ;)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hmm

              Good news, as over 75% ends up in the sea, you can be assured that less than 25% leaks on route.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm

            *wooosh*

            Please enable sarcasm detector before continuing.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm

          With a dynamic free market of water you have a thriving Silicon Valley of choice in new innovative forms of water. Containing added ingredients you would never have thought of under the old system

          It's talk like this that got us into the current scandalous situation, where every major UK water supplier knowingly allows our drinking water to be contaminated with dihydrogen monoxide, a chemical which can cause death if it gets in your lungs...

          <coughs>

        3. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          Scottish Water is nationalised and has outcomes that are far worse than its English equivalents.

          50% more water lost to leaks than the UK average. Incredible.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm

            Oh pipe down.

            Scottish water is not pouring cash into the coffers of foreign companies is it.

            Was this talking point gleaned from The Taxpayer Alliance website? Another band of Tufton Street acolytes.

            1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

              Re: Hmm

              Facts are facts whether you like them or not.

              You should ask your teachers to explain it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hmm

                Do some maths.

                https://www.nationalworld.com/news/environment/uk-water-companies-most-leakages-suppliers-compare-bosses-millions-3812613

                Add Scot water. By my reckoning they leak 9 cubic meters/km of main per day. (169 billion litres/ year and 50K km of main.)

                The Tufton Street line of "Nationalised Water far worse than lovely water companies. (Who pay us to say things.)" is tosh.

                Happy to be corrected.

                1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: Hmm

                  Yes everybody who disagrees with you, or has facts you don't like, is paid for by "Tufton Street".

                  The more you post the more you reassure me that you aren't old enough to vote.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Hmm

                    You are correct of course. Just because someone keeps parroting paid lobbyist talking points on social media or assorted forum, does not make them a paid shill.

                    Did you check the maths homework, Teach?

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hmm

              So you are saying that the nationalised Scottish Water is that much worse than the privatised English companies, even though the horrid private companies are paying out vast sums of money to their evil foreign shareholders* whereas Scottish Water keep all the money they get, "for the benefit of their customers"?

              That just makes Scottish Water look even more inefficient than has been previously suggested.

              *why does it matter if the companies that the privatised water companies are pouring cash into are foreign?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hmm

            One thing the scots are not short of is water.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Hmm

            "Scottish Water is nationalised and has outcomes that are far worse than its English equivalents.

            50% more water lost to leaks than the UK average. Incredible."

            Since when has Scotland ever worried about not having enough water? It's nearly as wet as Manchester!!

            The waterproof one ------------------>

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      So that's an article by capx.co, the blog for the Center for Policy Studies, rated as having Highly Opaque funding by the LSE.

      In other words you pay and give them a bunch of talking points, and they'll present it as some kind of study, get it into the press, do the media rounds, and nobody knows who's paying.

      Pull the other plonker, it's got bells on it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm

        Looks like the IEA and Adam Smith Institute also get highly opaque ratings. And they're all just around the corner from each other. Very handy. Hmm?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      No surprise that you post this obvious bollocks from the same corrupt people that scammed brexit.

      You seem too clever to be one of the many moronic christmas voting turkeys this bullshit worked on, resulting in the destruction of our country, so what's your grift here? Just trolling, or are you a disaster capitalist ready to short sell everything including your granny?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm

        'You seem too clever to be one of the many moronic christmas voting turkeys this bullshit worked on, '

        What's clever about re-posting obvious op-pieces from right-wing paid lobbyists and astro-turfers? Some people are just easily swayed by such guff.

      2. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Hmm

        I know you don't have an answer, but what would be the point ( or logistics ) of shorting your Grandmother?

        She doesn't have a defined monetary value that rises and falls. And who is going to lend me a Grandmother that I can sell and later re-buy?

        Which raises the question: are Grandmothers fungible?

        Or would this be more complicated with options contracts?

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      You mean I can change my water supplier and magically the water coming out of my tap will be sparkling and from Buxton Spa.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        You don't have hot, cold and sparkling taps?

  10. Flywheel
    Facepalm

    if only there was a use for a constant supply of hot water !

    Y'know, like data centres get together and supply community heating systems? Duh.

    1. Screepy

      Re: if only there was a use for a constant supply of hot water !

      This is being done in quite a few places now. DCs providing heat to surrounding houses (mainly winter, not sure what happens when they don't need the heat, wasted I guess?), some have been connected to community swimming pools so they don't have to heat them themselves.

      One of the better ones I read about was a DC and a huge vegetable grower linked up and used the waste heat to maintain the warmth of the greenhouses and Polly tunnels.

      All nice ideas but still they are few and far between as the majority of DCs don't bother as it costs more to implement.

      Perhaps it needs to be legislated in some way...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: if only there was a use for a constant supply of hot water !

        Massive underground heat storage facility... say flooding an old mine or something.

        1. EvilDrSmith

          Re: if only there was a use for a constant supply of hot water !

          Flooding mines can generate instability and lead to subsidence, though many mines once abandoned flood naturally anyway, indicating some element of ground waterflow is occurring (so any water placed in the mine will likely flow away and be replaced by groundwater).

          Also, depending on what the mine was extracting, the water can become contaminated with various nasties (metals, in particular, I think), creating a potential contamination hazard..

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: if only there was a use for a constant supply of hot water !

            Yeah, but you only need it to hold hot water... I mean, boreholes would do just as well. I'm not an expert in heat storage technology. Didn't I read something somewhere about hot sand?

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like